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Posted on January 1, 2018
Curiosity is the third in a series of articles written by CTI trained coaches which focus on the five contexts of the Co-Active Coaching model.

As an educator, I have witnessed the essential nature of curiosity in young children for many years. Simple questions like: What is that? Why do we do that? These are questions you’re likely to hear ad nauseum if you are a busy parent!

It is this “child like” quality that the co-active coach uses to bring energy and aliveness to the coaching relationship. As the handbook explains: “curiosity presents a paradox: it has a wonderful quality of playfulness; and yet, in practice, it is a powerful way of opening doors that the client has closed, locked and forgotten.”

As a Co-Active coach you have the opportunity to use the skill of powerful questions to start opening those doors. The opening question is the primary way to start – that is, to use a question that has no set answer. For example:

  1. Closed question: How much exercise do you need each week?
  2. Open question: What would “being fit” look like for you?

As you can see from the open question, the use of curiosity gives the power of exploration to the client – it is another way to reinforce their essential creativity, resourcefulness and the wholeness of who, they uniquely, are.

Exercise: Powerful Questions

A simple yet challenging exercise is to conduct a coaching session using only powerful questions. Strictly, no advice, and no answers from the coach. Try it.

Notice the impact and shift that happens! There are a myriad of powerful questions in the coaching handbook and even better – why not blurt the stupid question that you already have in your mind?

Often the shorter the question, the more effective.

Another coaching skill to use here is to give your client as much space as they want to think-to allow their curiosity to be piqued. Listen and wait. Giving your clients the gift of space is vital. To quote the Co-Active coaching handbook again: “In coaching, powerful questions knock people off their automatic pilot program and make them fly the airplane”.

When you start using curiosity in your coaching, you may find that clients are caught by surprise and stopped in their tracks by the simplicity and directness of your coaching.

So, how do you kickstart your own curiosity?


The best way to start is to be honest with yourself, and consider when was the last time you were really curious about the world?

Try going into nature and look in a new way at what is out there. How curious can you be about the wild flowers growing hidden underneath a bush? How carefully can you look at grass? Or even paving stones? When was the last time you looked underneath your sink in a really curious way?

Personally, I have found sharpening my curiosity antennae to be a life changing experience. The power of curiosity for me is that it negates judgment-the two just don’t go together! So when a colleague or a friend behaves in a way that is annoying or upsetting to me, I get curious. I ask: What could have brought this episode on? What else is happening for them? The conversation that follows is an exploration and deepens the relationship.

Identify self-defeating beliefs

So where are some other juicy places to get curious in coaching? One of the most obvious is when the Gremlins of self defeating belief systems show up.

It’s said that curiosity killed the cat but it certainly doesn’t do that for our Gremlins. When the negativity and doubt that clients express in times of change and growth are exposed to curious questions, the light is shone on old beliefs and there is an opportunity for the client to touch base with the true values and fulfillment that they want to live by.

Enroll Others

Another great place to play with curiosity is in enrolling clients. A good place to practice is at a gathering such as a networking event, conference, party, etc. Allow yourself to ask only curious questions about the person in conversation. When you create a real connection, listening deeply to what they are saying (not to the thoughts in your head), the ideas will just flow as you seek to understand the human being opposite you.

This often has the happy consequence of attracting new clients because the effect of being truly heard is one that not many people have experienced and as a Co-active Coach, armed with oodles of curiosity, you have the power to offer this gift. I have met many clients this way, without having first considered whether they might be interested in coaching.

What People Are Saying

  1. Want to collaborate


  2. Thank you for such a beautiful reminder of the importance of the coach’s curiosity in the discovery phase. As a new coach I roll the words “Be curious” over and over to keep me in the present and help create more space for the client to discover more about who they are. Thank you so much.


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